Black cinema is in the midst of a revival -- we are finally seeing movies with black writers and directors creating stories that reflect the black experience. The latest of such films is Jordan Peele's Get Out. The film received 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes -- a rare occurrence -- and topped the box office with $30.5 million in ticket sales according to the LA Times.
Get Out was actually one of the previews I noticed when I went to see Moonlight. It really caught my attention when I watched the premise unfold: Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, is going to meet his white girlfriend Rose's parents for the first time. As you can imagine, Chris was apprehensive, seeing that it was going to be his first chance at an impression.
Another layer of anxiety is added to this already tense situation when Chris learns that Rose has not revealed to her parents that he is black. Again, these are all pretty common scenarios any of us would go through. Upon arriving at the house, Chris almost instantly senses that something isn't quite right with this white family. He quickly learns that his suspicions are more than accurate.
Truth be told, I have never been one for scary movies, especially the realistic ones. I never realized how underrepresented black people are in horror films. Well, I knew, but I didn't understand the social implications or how it affects the way white America sees black men.
What makes Get Out special is that it shits on the trope of the random black dude in the scary movie. As writer Frederick McKindra put it in his well-written Buzzfeed piece: "Get Out and the Purge franchise finally makes black men the protagonists of horror films and center their real-life terror of living in suburban America." He goes on to say that for the first time we get to see a fully developed black character be scared, instead of scary.
That floored me. I never realized how much black men are viewed as violent in real life. A fully developed black character is rarely afforded the opportunity to die in a way that matters. The black character typically has such an arbitrary role, that when they are randomly killed off, it never means much. Much like how black skin has been weaponized in real life -- black victims are rarely ever seen as victims.
Director Jordan Peele said he wanted to make it so movie viewers would need to see it twice. Whether he did that as a matter of artistic merit or just to lure people into purchasing a second ticket doesn't matter, cause it worked.
After seeing the movie, my friends and I sat a restaurant for literal hours dissecting the highlighting and making mention of the things we noticed that we couldn't discuss in the theater. I really have to go back to see the movie for a second time because I just know there's something I missed. In the meantime, here are three things I peeped during and after viewing once.
There are spoilers. If you have not seen the movie, stop right here, and come back later.
1) After Rose and Chris hit the deer -- that seemed to come out of nowhere -- Chris is compelled to go find it. We later find out he does this because Chris feels that he abandoned his mother when she was struck by a car. He feels guilty of death because he thinks he could've somehow come to her rescue. This is also why he went back to save Georgina after accidentally hitting her with his car.
2) Dean reveals very early the source of the family's hatred towards black men during the tour of the house. It stems from his father losing to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics, which was held in Nazi, Germany. Jesse Owens's victory was a clear challenge to Hitler's belief that German "Aryan" people were the superior race. Dean's father clearly felt overshadowed by this physical and political victory, spawning an extreme sense of jealousy and hatred for the black man's physical ability. We later see in the video Chris is forced to watch that Dean's father was the mastermind behind the whole transformation process.
3) The trigger for Chris' hypnosis was the tapping teaspoon on the tea cup -- a very subtle means to a horrific end. Often times acts of racism are very subtle. There is a feeling of paranoia when you notice it, and even more so if you call them out. However, you know what it is when you see it. This is why the lead actor Daniel Kaluuya likens racism to being in a real life horror film in his interview with Vulture. There is an assumed paranoia associated with accusations of racism. The same paranoia that the lead characters in most horror films experience when they try to explain some supernatural occurrence.
4) The sunken place in the film is similar to the paralyzing effects of hearing racial slurs in the workplace. The hypnosis is a satirical/extreme example of the psychology associated with enduring racism of all kinds. You are aware that it is happening but the need to keep your job or not go to jail, prevents you from being able to react. The mind of the actual black person was trapped in the sunken place, and while they were aware, they were unable to react.
5) The first song we hear at the beginning of the movie is Childish Gambino's Redbone. Director Jordan Peele was very intentional in choosing this song for the intro to the movie. "Well, first of all, I love the ‘Stay Woke’ [lyric] — that’s what this movie is about. I wanted to make sure that this movie satisfied the black horror movie audience’s need for characters to be smart and do things that intelligent, observant people would do," Peele told HipHopDX.